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I have an old 2008 13" Macbook4,1 model (not pro) running Snow Leopard with 4GB of RAM and 160GB of HDD. It is adequate for my needs at the moment but the OS is no longer being supported by Apple (NTP bug for example).

Thinking about the future, I am considering wiping OS X and dedicating the entire disk to Windows 7 or Linux. I've found here that Windows 7 runs well on it and Linux seemed to be ok on it when I used a recent LiveCD to test it.

So, my question is, are there any issues with removing OS X from the system completely? Will it break anything? Is it needed for anything?

EDIT: Upgrade to Lion is out too, according to wikipedia support just run out - Oct '14.

EDIT2: Apparently OS X is needed for firmware updates. But since this is a 2008 MacBook, it is extremely unlikely they will release new firmware for it.

  • 1
    Have you considered doing a dual-boot with MacOS and some flavor of Linux, like Mint or Ubuntu? Have any iDevices that you are supporting currently with OS X? – douggro Jan 6 '15 at 18:05
  • I have bootcamp atm with XP but both OSX and XP need to go due to support and wasted disk space. I only have 160GB. I have an iPhone4 and 5 but they do not need OSX nowadays. – Vic Jan 6 '15 at 18:24
  • Boot Camp will be the "easier" route to go, running Win 7. Running Linux takes a little more work to work with EFI. Device drivers are usually the issue running Linux and those don't seem to crop up until you do an actual install (rather than running from a LiveCD), but your model is old enough that driver support should be fairly good. I'm partial to Linux, but that's just me as I have several Ubuntu and Debian machines running. – douggro Jan 6 '15 at 18:32
  • Even clean OSX at about 10GB is too much wasted space for a 160GB HDD. So I most likely not going to keep it. I am a *nix guy myself so I am leaning towards Linux atm. – Vic Jan 6 '15 at 20:38
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    If you have an external disk, I suggest you to make a clone copy of your actual running MacOS X on this external disk. See: bombich.com . This will maintain you a fast switch possibility, let you run the Apple Hardware Test, and run any EFI upgrade. – dan Feb 9 '16 at 7:12
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Do you have the original install disks for Mac OS X? If so, there shouldn't be any issues with wiping the Mac partition completely off the hdd.

However, if you don't have those disks, I would strongly recommend keeping the Mac OS X install and creating a new partition (shrinking the Mac partition) for the new OS. Mainly because if something goes wrong (or if you don't like either alternative) it's much easier to recover a MacBook using the Mac OS. I think you can get away with 5-10GB for the Snow Leopard partition.

If you have the original install disks, you shouldn't have an issue with restoring it.

Linux will take some tinkering to get working properly. I had a particularly rough time getting wifi to work in Ubuntu 12.blah on an older MacBook Pro. Plus side: With a laptop that old, there should be a decent amount of documentation for making your hardware work with Linux. I'd stick with Ubuntu if you like fancy, or Linux Mint if you like simple. Windows 7 (if installed through Bootcamp) works pretty well without much hassle.

  • Yes I have the OSX disks. Only issue I have with W7 is that the OS itself takes too much space and keeps growing... On the Linux side, I like that I can go with a light distro and save cpu cycles and disk space... – Vic Jan 6 '15 at 20:17
  • Completely valid. Linux Mint Is fairly light and excellent on older machines. Threw that onto two old Dell Inspirons for my parents, and they both work like a dream. – zomgdavidbowie Jan 6 '15 at 20:43
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Echoing the "backup" to have the original disks available if you ever want to return to an old MacOSX, the only warnings I'll give is that you'll be having fun with EFI using Linux, so you might need to investigate the versions that supports that (and the UEFI support should be sufficient).

If you choose the Windows 7 route, the better advice will be to remove any and everything you do NOT want on the Mac side to have the biggest space available, and then make use of the BootCamp features as that'll help you with the environment needed to boot Windows 7, as Windows 7 doesn't support UEFI/EFI "easily" out of the box (unless you use the 64bit version, and even there are "gotchas").

You might need to download the needed BootCamp .ISO/packages/etc. from support.apple.com's download site, as I've found them to "not be available" for the old MacBooks via the boot camp utility, to install all the other (after installation) drivers etc. for the Windows 7.

I've not found the "dual booting" with Linux and MacOSX on a true Mac easy, but then I didn't need it so it was just a "quick" exercise, rather than need to have.

Another "option" for backups is to "clone" the MacBook's disk using CarbonCopyCloner (CCC or something) that provides you a bootable "backup disk"/

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There should be no issues with you removing OSX completely.

There are a few startup items you'll need to complete.

  1. Create a bootable Windows USB Drive. Use this guide.
  2. Save all of your personal items on your Macbook to a cloud (Dropbox, etc.) or save them to an external hard drive.
  3. Wipe the hard drive on you Mac using Disk Utilities. This is a great guide on how to do just that. You'll want to prep it such that the windows, not Mac. So don't set the format as Mac OS Extended (Journaled).

You'll now be able to use the bootable drive to install Windows on you old Mac machine. Good luck!

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Having run Windows7 x64 for a while now, I did come to one issue that was quite annoying but not a show stopper, and that was video performance.

It appears the boot camp video drivers for the Intel graphics chip are poor and as a consequence in all video playback, regardless of software used, there is minor but visible tearing.

While playback on OSX is very smooth, the same software and media files in Windows7 x64 shows a small degree of tearing that for me was annoying. I was forced on more than one occasion to switch to OSX to watch it as it was bugging me.

Here is my related Superuser question...

https://superuser.com/q/1086295/300548

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Go with a Dual Boot; OS X and FreeBSD

I personally did this on an XServe G4 (PowerPC), which was more difficult than the Intel based Macs; so your mileage will be better. My XServe had 2 1.3GHz (RISC) CPUs, 2GB RAM and 2 80GB HDD's. 1 hard drive had 2 partitions, 1 for the OS X installer (so I didn't have to wait on the slowness of the SuperDrive) and the other partition as a TimeMachine backup of the installation. The primary hard drive is where all the magic happened.

I outlined this install on the Unix/Linux forum here on StackExchange

  • I created two partitions: a 30GB Apple partition and a 50GB Free Space partition. The Apple partition has to be first
  • I installed the latest version of OS X that the server could handle (Snow Leopard)
  • I then installed FreeBSD onto the Free Space partition allowing the installer to "auto partition" it. FreeBSD (gparted) created a /boot, /, /var, and /home.
  • To top it off, I installed it via USB (which said couldn't be done, but is actually pretty easy)

So, what I have is a FreeBSD system that I am able to boot into OS X for any "Apple specific" tasks like updating firmware. I haven't had many since this install, but it's comforting to know that I have access to native OS X when I need it.

Why FreeBSD

OS X is based on FreeBSD and the nice part about it is that the installer (USB img) is less than a 700MB. Only the most essential services get installed. I have no need for a GUI so GNOME or KDE are nowhere to be found. My server is running an AMP stack (Apache, MySQL, and PHP) so other than that, nothing else is loaded. Security wise, it's very difficult to hack a system that doesn't have a service to exploit.

Even nicer with FreeBSD is it's consistency. There are too many distros in Linux and what you do in one is not the same as another (i.e. packages versus RPMs). FreeBSD on an Xserve G4 is going to be the same as FreeBSD on a 2015 Macbook Pro.

As for application compatibility? On OS X on my XServe, I couldn't upgrade PHP to 5.6 without installing Homebrew. I am running the latest AMP stack on the XServe because it was available on their Ports Collection.

Check out this article from ITWire: Running FreeBSD on the server: a sysadmin speaks

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Try change HDD to SSD and install OS X 10.9-10.10, would be ok and more or less compatible with current features. Spouse's MacBook 2009 (not Pro) works fine with 10.11 and handmade fusion drive (SSD 256 + HDD 750).

  • 2008 MacBooks cannot be upgraded past OS X 10.7.5, as already stated in the question. – nekomatic Sep 13 '16 at 8:18

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